Reflecting on another year without my dad.

A day came and went this year that I didn’t pay my normal attention to. I was at a signing in Arizona visiting my cousin. I remember thinking about it briefly and mentioning that it had been twenty-seven years since my dad passed away. Normally, I try to go to Lake Erie where his ashes are scattered, not because I’m sad and I need to shed tears, but usually to reflect.
This year, I didn’t do that and my reflection has been simmering below the surface. Maybe it’s like one of those emotional weights that if you don’t work out it simmers until it explodes. And perhaps, this year, I see certain similarities that are making me reflect more so. My dad was thirty-six when he died and he had four kids. This year, on the anniversary of his death, I was thirty-six and I have four kids.
I’ve been thinking about my life. Am I doing everything I want to do? Am I happy? Am I being the best version of me I can be? Would he be proud of me? If he had gotten clean and sober, would he be a man I would like? Would he be a man I would want around his grandkids? Would he like my husband?
There’s a lot there right?
I know I don’t have real answers to all of those questions. I can say, I love my family I’ve created. I can say I’m happy. Could I be happier? Sure, if there was a little more money and a little less laundry and a little more time for myself, but I’m striving and that’s important.
But not him.
Not my dad.
See he was an addict with a bad heart since he was born, so add abuse and it made for a lethal combination. This has been a part of me. It’s shaped me. In some ways to my detriment and in other ways to my benefit. Even though he was messed up, heavy with his hand, he somehow taught me family values. I share a bond with my brother and sisters that is so vibrantly tangible.
I have too much empathy. I say too much because I feel bad for the addicts I still know and love. I want to help them. Now, in my adulthood, I’ve learned about boundaries, but that path wasn’t an easy one to take, and sometimes I’m still walking it.
I’ve struggled with self-worth my entire life because of my upbringing.
But I’ve learned things in the Twenty-seven years he’s been gone.
I’ve learned even though I wonder if he would be proud of me, that it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the way my daughter perceives me when she attends a book signing with me. Now, her being proud of me–that matters.
Mostly, with thinking about him being gone for so long, I’ve felt gratitude. I’m his age, with lots of babies. I get the privilege of raising them and spending every day with them. My laundry may be overflowing, always, and my insides might be panicking over an upcoming dentist bill, but I get to have that.
And he doesn’t; stopped having that a long time ago.
And that’s okay.
I don’t think he got that, or ever really understood what being grateful for his family meant. I’m sure that’s part of the sickness of addiction. But in his death, he taught me to be grateful. He taught me that I’d do whatever it takes for my family. He struggled to be the best version of himself, but in all of that, especially in his death he taught me about love.
So, thanks, Dad. Sorry I didn’t stop out to the lake this year. But I think even in your death, you somehow made this life a little brighter. There were things that were horrible about you. But, you gave me music. You taught me to dance freely and sing loudly with my kids. You gave me family meals at the table. You taught me to play chess. You taught me world domination in the form of Risk. You read. I’m not sure if you wrote much or drew much, but I imagine that if you had a sober mind, it would’ve been a mind filled with stories. I’d like to think that the part of me that needs to write down all of my thoughts and feelings is a little bit from you and that you’d love that I write books.
I’ll take the good, and leave the bad. Be grateful for the lessons it’s taught me. Be grateful that I get to be a mom, and be grateful that I got that good from you when I did.14729360_1813334235613940_7961468554418002845_n